Saturday, May 17, 2014

Inspiration and Perspiration

By Lacey Gunter

So I went to hear Kevin Henkes speak last night in true mommy fashion, toting along my vivacious and outgoing 4 year old daughter. Kevin is the author of numerous popular children's books, most notable Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse and now the most recent Newbery Honor Winner The Year of Billy Miller. He was speaking at Provo Library's Children's Book Festival.

As you can imagine it was a little hard to catch all of what he was saying while still trying to keep my daughter entertained and quiet, but I did catch a few interesting nuggets I am happy to share with you.

He emphasized the idea of how really great ideas can come to us when we are just out living our lives.  As an example, he said he got the idea for Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse one day when he was at a park and watched a little girl with a toy purse that would play music when she opened it. He didn't have any kids at the time yet, but he found it especially entertaining how exhausted and irritated the purse was making the girl's father. He thought is was such a funny situation he had to go home and write about it, which turned out to be an award winning and much loved children's book. He has no idea who the girl was, but he is amazed and grateful for the inspiration.

Another idea he emphasized was the complexity and depth of emotion children experience, even though they don't have the vocabulary to express it. As a children's writer or illustrator, we need to capture and address these emotional moments if we want to really connect with our young readers.  We need to give visualization and voice to the things they are feeling. He thought the best way to do this was through imaginative thinking.

The other important idea he expressed is that if you want to be a successful author you have to just go for it no matter what the world says. He is sure if he had listened to all the people who wanted to talk some sense into him, he would not be where he is today and imagine kids literature without all of his great contributions.

I am glad I was able to attend, even if it required a mother's dose of patience and energy.  Hmm, maybe I should write a book about that. ; )


  1. That's so cool. How fun! I love taking my kids to author talks and book signings (though I didn't do it when they were young. Call me a chicken!) It's true about ideas. Sometimes I get my ideas from such small things. But once an idea truly takes hold, I know I have to write it!

  2. Very cool! Always good things to remember! I had this idea for a children’s book one day when my son was playing around with a pencil. We were outside and he was waving it in the air and I said, “Honey! Stop it! You’re going to erase the trees!” He started giggling and I thought it would be fun to write a book about a boy who finds a magic pencil that can actually create and erase 3-dimensional objects. :-)

  3. How neat for you and your daughter! Hopefully she got as much out of it as you did...or at least that she had fun! ;)



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